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THE TRUTH ABOUT THE EPRP 

Part One 

ESPIC 

P.O. BOX 73337 

WAHINGTON DC 20056 

Email: espic@aoLcom 
NOTE 

THIS PAMPHLET IS WRITTEN FOR YOUNG ETHIOPIANS, 
ESPECIALLY THOSE BORN ABROAD WHO DO NOT KNOW OR 
SPEAK LITTLE OF AMHARIC OR OTHER ETHIOPIAN 
LANGUAGES. THE AIM IS TO BRIEFLY PRESENT SOME ASPECTS 
OF THE HISTORY OF THE ETHIOPIAN PEOPLE'S 
REVOLUTIONARY PARTY (EPRP) AND TO DEBUNK THE LIES 
SPREAD AGAINST IT, THE FIRST MODERN POLITICAL PARTY IN 
THE HISTORY OF ETHIOPIA. 

AS WE SAY IN ETHIOPIA, MAN YAWRA YENEBERE, MAN YARDA 
YEKEBERE. LET HE WHO WAS THERE AT THE EVENT SPEAK, 
LET HE WHO WAS AT THE FUNERAL TELL THE RELATIVES OF 
THE DEATH. OR, AS WAS SAID IN THE SEVENTIES, "NO 
INVESTIGATION, NO RIGHT TO SPEAK". WE INTEND TO GIVE 
YOU THE FACTS TO ENABLE YOU TO MAKE YOUR OWN 
CONCLUSIONS. AND THIS IS ONLY TO BE EXPECTED AS THE 
EPRP CONSISTENTLY AND COURAGEOUSLY STOOD FOR THE 
TRUTH, FOR JUSTICE, FOR DEMOCRACY. 

PREFACE 

The EPRP. The Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Party. Ehapa in its 
Amharic acronym — Ye Ethiopia Hizbawi Abyotawi Party. It was formed 
on April 9/1972 as the first ever modern poUtical party organized 
consciously to bring radical system change in Ethiopia. Now in 2006, the 
EPRP is still engaged in the long struggle for a democratic system in 
Ethiopia. Banned by three consecutive regimes, repressed brutally by all, 
the EPRP has become a maior constituent nart of the histnrv of Ethinnia. 



Like it or hate it, this is one 

fact that cannot be avoided-- the history of Ethiopia since the seventies has 
to acknowledge the role and place of the EPRP. Expectedly, much has been 
said and written about this unflinchingly Ethiopian poUtical 

party. Many true, and many more false. This pamphlet intends to start 
presenting the truth and to expose the lies that, by repetition, have come to 
sound as true to the uninformed. The EPRP was a vigorous and determined 
party that mobilized the people, and in particular the youth, and wrote 
vaUant chapters in the history of Ethiopia. It symboUzed courage, 
commitment, sane patriotism, democracy, initiative and creativity, sacrifice 
and steadfastness. Many loved and died for it because its cause was noble, 
worthy and very much Ethiopian. Others detested it with fury and 
committed crimes and launched terror campaigns against it because it 
refused to give up its vow to people and country and walked the walk 
whatever the cost. 

What/who indeed was the EPRP? Who formed it? Did enemies of Ethiopia 
estabUsh it as some so falsely allege? Did it fan and support secession or did 
it struggle for the democratic unity of Ethiopia? Was it an Amhara 
chauvinist organization or a "Greater Ethiopia'VAba Ethiopia/ fighter? Did 
it launch what its enemies call the White Terror? Did it carelessly throw its 
members into the jaws of the Red Terror machinery? Did it work for the 
CIA and Arab petro- dollars as the Mengistu regime alleged? Did it cry 
Viva Siyad Barre and support the invasion of the Ogaden by Somalia? 
What made/makes the EPRP tick? Why was it against the Haile Sellasie 
regime and then the Derg regime and now against the TPLF/EPRDF rule? 
Is it fighting for sectarian power? Is it really multi ethnic? Who were/are its 
leaders? Was it anarchist or did it stop the rain and cause famine as some 

Derg cadres alleged? Why is it clandestine, mysterious even? Do we have 
any reason to fear the EPRP? Actually, who is afraid of the EPRP? These 
and many more questions and false assertions will be treated in this 
pamphlet. This is no self- serving document but a glance at the truth, an 
attempt to start refuting the lies spread against the party by at least two 
successive regimes and their supporters. It is written to say to the young of 
today that their kin in the past set up this party to fight for Ethiopia and 
that it is still around, after 34 years, honoring its vow to the people to fight 
for democracy in Ethiopia. It is a party that deserves the support of the 
patriotic and progressive people and youth because the EPRP embodies 
and still sparkles with the revolutionary spirit of change, of courage, of 
defying the odds and crying Inachenfalen — we shall win- true to the 
Ethiopian tradition of patriotism and the stubbornness to remain free 
whatever the cost. The EPRP had and has many enemies because Ethiopia 
has manv local and foreipn enemies who found in the EPRP an obstacle, a 



resolute foe. Where the EPRP has made mistakes, and it did make quite a 
few-- as it had no previous experience to rely on- it had been the first one 
to criticize itself and to admit its mistakes. Yet, it has refused to accept the 
unfair and baseless accusations made against it by the very regimes that 
repressed it and by their followers. Please read on. 

WHY AND HOW WAS THE EPRP FORMED? 

Other times, other realities. What was then, at the time of Emperor Haile 
Sellassie, is lost on most of the youths of today. The Emperor has joined his 
ideological opposite, Che Guevara, in being an inoffensive icon, a photo on 
a tee shirt, popularized by the Rastas and their worship of him. The reality 
of his rule was very vicious even though, as we say in Ethiopia, the fresh 
corpse has made us forget the old one/tikus resa yeqoyewn yasresa/. The 
Derg and TPLF regimes are so bad that, in hindsight, some who had passed 
through the imperial regime have been forced to consider it benign. It was 
anything but benign. Called a "modern autocracy" by some who wanted to 
present it in a softer light, the rule of Haile Sellasie was not democratic at 
all. The exoticism he exuded to those outside the country was reflected 
inside by a harsh and centralized rule. Despite the trappings of a modern 
state (Constitution and all), it was a feudal regime that reduced the 
peasants into serfs forced by law and custom to hand over two thirds of 
their produce to the landlords. Dissent was punished brutally, no political 
parties were allowed, freedom of speech and of the press were unknown. 
The majority of the people also suffered oppression and discrimination on 
the basis of their ethnic origin or religion. Many peaceful attempts were 
made to bring about change, even university students used to petition the 
Emperor and not to demonstrate against his rule. In 1960, army generals 
and officers staged a coup that was brutally foiled and it became clear, to 
the students and intellectuals at least, that the regime had to be changed by 
whatever means necessary. 

The Ethiopian Student Movement got radicalized and, in 1965, the historic 
demonstration for "Land to the Tiller" was held. In feudal Ethiopia that 
had reduced the majority of Ethiopians unto serfdom this was the most 
revolutionary slogan that could be imagined. The regime responded by 
unleashing the police on the students and by expelling from the university 9 
student leaders. After that, every year saw students on the streets with 
slogans calling for change and denouncing the imperial regime. It is a well- 
known story as it was the basis for the coming more organized and more 
bitter struggle. However, not many people really understand why the 
student movement got radicalized. The inability of the regime to reform 
itself is one of the main causes. There was also no national middle class to 
institute change from the feudal and retrograde system. Another factor was 
that the time was one of intense international struggle against imperialism, 
and the Haile Sellasie repime was hacked hv the United States. All over the 



world, struggles were being waged for democracy and for liberation from 
colonialism. These struggles were being assisted by what was then known as 
the SociaUst Bloc (Soviet Union and China included). From whence also the 
attraction to the ideology of the Left. The success of the Revolutions in 
China, Cuba and other places was also a big factor. With Ethiopia so 
backward and the progressive youth so aroused to bring change, 
identifying with the world wide anti imperialist struggle and the adoption 
of radical left ideology as a vehicle for change was almost a given. During 
that time, anyone in Ethiopia who wanted real and meaningful change 
could not avoid being a Leftist. 

indene Ho Chi Minh,inde Che Guevara 

Fanno chaka giba tiglun litmera. 

Like Ho Chi Minh and Che Guevara 

Oh ye rebels got to the jungle to lead the struggle. 

The world- wide student struggle in 1968 was also observed in Ethiopia by 
demonstrations and protests. It is within this framework and contest that 
the radicalization of the Movement and subsequently of the EPRP should 
be viewed. The advocates of reform who rile against the Ethiopian Left 
were not a viable force at the time or were allied/identified with feudal 
regime in one way or another and thus unable to be alternatives. The youth 
of the time, meaning the university students and intellectuals, were 
motivated by a burning desire to see Ethiopia changed in a democratic 
sense. Many university students came also from rural areas, from 
provincial towns and they knew the suffering of the vast majority of 

the peasants (85% of the population). In the cities, especially in Addis 
Ababa, the class difference was apparent for all to see: the opulence and 
decadent luxury of the Emperor and his ruling class contrasting with the 
dirt poor majority of the people. An Ethiopian nationaUst could not avoid 
but chafe against the imperial regime that kept Ethiopia backward. That is 
why the students launched their struggle, peaceful protests against an 
insensitive regime. The arrogance of the power holders of the time can best 
be expressed by the Emperor's own words when he repUed to Italian 
journalist Oriana Fallaci in 1973 as follows: 

"We were born of Royal blood. Authority is ours by right. A King must 
never regret the use of force...We have never been afraid to be harsh. It is 
the King who knows what is best for the people; the people themselves 
don't know it. We are not worried (by rebellion) or no more than necessary. 
Such episodes occur constantly in a country's history. There is always 
snmefhinp movinp. hrewinp. There are amhifioiis neonle evervwhere. 



wicked people. The only thing to do is to deal with them with courage and 
decision. One must beware of uncertainty, weakness or conflicting 
emotions--they lead to defeat. We have never allowed Ourselves to fall prey 
to them. Force must be used." The Emperor should have been worried in 
time as the discontent of the people was brewing and about to explode. This 
mistake cost him his throne and his life but the Ethiopian students and 
intellectuals were no dupes of anyone. They were incensed by the sad and 
cruel reality of Ethiopia, by the suffering of the people, by the gross 
inequality. If there are people today with acute nostalgia for the Haile 
Sellasie period they must be people who did not know that time or who 
were part of the ruling class at the time. The vast majority of Ethiopians 
who suffered immensely under that regime have no real fond memories of it 
even if the subsequent regimes have been worse enough to make it appear 
"better". By early 1970s, Ethiopia was a country begging for a Revolution 
and the February 1974 Revolution erupted to wash away the imperial 
regime. However, this event was preceded by events that would have deep 
impact on the history of Ethiopia. By 1969, the university students were 
convinced that student protest alone would lead nowhere and that there 
was the need to get organized politically and to mobilize the people to 
struggle against the autocracy. August 1969, activist university students 
hijacked a plane and landed in Khartoum with the expressed intention of 
organizing the armed struggle. On December 1969, the regime's security 
forces murdered student leader Tilahun Gizaw. The line was thus drawn, 
the bridge blown up. 

The confrontation between the regime and those seeking change entered a 
new phase. Student movement leaders and intellectuals formed the EPRP 
in April 1972. The founding congress was held from April 2 to April 9. 
Previously, study groups were formed and intense discussion held on the 
then current situation in Ethiopia and on what was to be done. 

Thus, there is absolutely no truth in the assertion that the EPRP was 
formed by foreign or non- Ethiopian elements. The EPRP was a genuine 
"Made by Ethiopians" group. It was formed to fill the gap or the need for a 
leading political party and to organize the armed struggle for the liberation 
of the vast majority of the peasants and working people. As presented 
elsewhere, it was formed as a Leftist party with a clearly set ideological 
choice, an anti imperialist and anti feudal force. The EPRP did not hide its 
ideology or priorities. It was forced into clandestinity because the imperial 
regime persecuted political dissent and grouping of any sort. It could be 
said that the years- long student and intellectual struggle culminated in the 
formation of the EPRP. 

Other groups were to be formed subsequently and that is why we say the 
EPRP, formed in 1972, was the "first modern political party in Ethiopia". 
A homeprown nropressive nartv formed hv voiinp Ethionians vearninp to 



bring democracy to the people and the country. Courageous 

Ethiopians with deeply held convictions and an optimistic certainty that the 
regime in power could be changed through arduous struggle formed the 
EPRP. Inachenfalen--we shall be victorious--the EPRP founders believed in 
this. 

TWO 

THE EPRP AND THE FEBRUARY REVOLUTION 

When the 1974 February RevolutionA'ekatit 66 Abyot/ erupted, the EPRP 
was clandestinely present in Ethiopia but not yet strong enough to assume 
the leadership role. This fact meant that the victory of the people's resolute 
struggle could not be assured as power was taken over by the armed 
officers organized as the DERG/ a word meaning committee/. Actually, the 
February Revolution saw a vast section of the people engaged boldly in the 
struggle for democracy. Students, teachers, taxi drivers, women, followers 
of the Moslem faith, soldiers and non- commissioned officers, prostitutes, 
etc all took part in demonstrations and strikes demanding for their rights. 
The organ of the EPRP, DEMOCRACIA, which was distributed 
clandestinely contributed immensely to strengthen the struggle and to 
spread consciousness. Workers staged a general strike and brought down a 
stopgap administration appointed by the Emperor. Police and soldiers did 
follow the order of the regime and did shoot to death many demonstrators 
but the tide of the struggle was not to be held back. While the EPRP 
struggled to assure the victory of the Revolution there were other forces 
who tried to put a brake on the Revolution, to stop the struggle, to 
champion limited reform and change. The DERG ousted the Emperor and 
established its own rule though it called it temporary provisional, to lull the 
people to sleep, to buy time and to strengthen itself. The EPRP was the 
first, if not the only one, to oppose the Derg's hijack of power, to expose its 
confused and confusing slogans, its false assertion that it will hand over 
power to the people. 

The Derg took over the slogans of the progressives, sucked out the real 
meaning and proclaimed the slogans as law. It proclaimed land reform by 
nationalizing all urban and rural land, a flawed measure in the absence of 
the empowerment of the peasantry, people's power and democratic rights. 
As the EPRP stated from the outset, the peasant was not freed but turned 
into a vassal of the military dominated State. This was proved to be so in 
the 17- year of brutal Derg rule. While the Derg and its supporters claimed 
that the Revolution and the people need a mogzit/guardian/, the EPRP 
opposed this elitist concept and called for the formation of a provisional 
people's government (PPG) made up of the Derg itself, all political parties, 
all civic orpani/ations. etc. The Derp and its sunnorters reiected this, as the 



officers had no intention of relinquishing power. The EPRP mobiHzed the 
youth, the workers, the civil servants, the progressives within the military 
to peacefully protest against the illegal Derg rule and it was clear even for 
foreign observers of the time that the EPRP was the most popular and well 
organized political party in Ethiopia. Alas, it was not long before the Derg 
abandoned its "aleminim dem" or bloodless Revolution slogan and started 
to execute people left and right. A case in point is the illegal and summary 
execution of more than 60 people- high ranking elderly ministers and 
officials of the imperial regime, militants of the sub -Derg who had opposed 
the Derg's control of power, etc. Much more blood was to follow. 

THREE 

THE EPRP AND THE RED TERROR 

Repression by the Derg was striking at the EPRP and the people by 1976 
though the Red Terror was officially declared later on. There is now a shrill 
attempt by some quarters to allege that the Red Terror came as a response 
to the violence unleashed by the EPRP in the urban centers. But this is 
totally false. The EPRP had an armed wing in Tigrai /to be known later as 
the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Army--EPRA/ but it was not even 
publicly declared or given permission to start operations. The introduction 
to the first political program of the organization made it clear that "if 
democratic rights are assured/respected" the EPRP will struggle peacefully 
for democracy. Let us recapitulate and check what happened at that time. 
Did the EPRP launch urban assassin squads as its enemies allege? Did it 
resort to violence to gain the political upper hand? The truth is that it did 
not. It was in actual fact the victim of the savage repression unleashed by 
the military regime, only resorting to self- defense belatedly, with the odds 
against it but refusing to fold its arms and perish. Let us refer from history 
to set the record straight: 

"The Red Terror was officially launched by the Derg in 1976 when it 
declared open war against the EPRP. But what happened in between 
from September 1974 to September 1976? Was it all peaceful? Did the 
opponents of the Derg resort to violent actions pushing it, as some 
allege, to retaliate? Who fired the first shot in what was to become 
known as the urban underground war?" Between September 1974 and 
September 1976 there was no peace. A new war had started. The 
people did not raise arms during this time. The EPRP did not fire a 
single shot in the cities. The main means of protest was very peaceful: 
demonstrations, strikes, petitions, congress resolutions, etc. The 
people were merely trying to exercise the rights they had wrested from 
the feudal regime. They were also calling on the military regime to 
resnect its words and to return to the barracks. The neonle protested 



peacefully, the Derg reacted very violently and as the EPRP was 
spearheading the popular protest the violence of the regime targeted it 
as "the number one enemy". 

The Derg took over power on September 12,974. On the same day it 
issued a proclamation that carried, among other things, the following 
articles: art. 8: it is hereby prohibited, for the duration of this 
proclamation to oppose the aims of "Ethiopia Tikdem'TEthiopia Eirst/, 
to engage in any strike, hold unauthorized demonstrations or public 
meetings, or to engage in any act that may disturb public peace and 
security, art.9: A special military tribunal shall be established to try 
those who contravene the orders enunciated in article 8 of this 
proclamation. Judgments handed down by the special military 
tribunal are not subject to appeal. In other words, the Deg was not 
going back to he barracks but telling the people to go back to their 
previous condition of servitude, muzzled and uncomplaining. As is to 
be expected, those who had launched the Eebruary Revolution 
opposed this fervently. The Confederation of Ethiopian Labour 
Unions (CELU) held its congress from September 15-17 (1974) and 
passed resolutions calling for the respect of democratic rights and the 
formation of a provisional popular government made up of all the 
political groups and vibrant forces of the society. The same demands 
were echoed by teachers, students, by some officers and soldiers of the 
Body Guard, by members of the Air Eorce, the Army Aviation and 
Engineering Corps and by employees in the civil administration. 
Leaflets, resolutions, protest demonstrations — those were historic 
times during which the people threw away the shackles of apathy and 
submission and rose up with courage to demand their rights. They 
wee unarmed but powerful in their resolve and unity, in that they had 
an organization in the EPRP guiding the struggle. 

The Derg, made up of 120 officers, had no intention of handing over 
power to the people. Some intellectuals (including one who later 
became the ideologue of the Eritrean PLE) advised the Derg at that 
time and firmly told them not to hand over power to "civilians". 
Labor and student union leaders were arrested or hunted down. The 
Deg used units of the Eourth Division to attack the barracks of the 
Engineering Corps: five soldiers were killed and more than seven 
wounded. Scores were rounded up from the Body Guard and the 
Army Aviation. More than 30 intellectuals and civil servants were also 
jailed. On October 23, unemployed youth gathered at the CELU HQ to 
register for jobs but the police intervened and shot dead one and 
wounded many others. Arrests and shootings... On the night of 
November 23.1974. the Dere raised the decibel of violence bv 



arbitrarily executing 59 people. The majority of these were high 
officials of the imperial regime, none were tried, the death sentences 
approved by a show of hands of the Derg members. The Derg labeled 
the unlawful action a "political decision" — many such illegal 
"political decisions" were to be made in the future not only by the 
Derg but also by the Meles Zenawi group. Some of the others executed 
along with the high officials of the Emperor were actually dissidents 
who had demanded the Derg's return to the barrack. These victims 
were colonel Yigezu Yimenu and Captin Belaye Tsegaye from the 
Body Guards and NCO Bekele Wolde Giorgis from the Army 
Aviation. In addition, the Derg along with his two aides also killed the 
first chairman of the junta itself, Lt. General Aman Andom. 

Immediately after these killings, the Derg dispatched more troops to 
Eritrea, thus opting for the use of force to deal with the problem there. 
Israeli trained special commandos were let loose in Asmara strangling 
youngsters at random with piano wire. Terror spread in the city and 
beyond and thousands of Eritrean youngsters fled to exile or to swell 
the ranks of the guerrillas. The violence of the Derg spread 
everywhere. It should be mentioned that the regime had conveniently 
issued yet another proclamation on November 16 to amend the Penal 
Code. Aside from stipulating for the setting up of special court martial 
the article made many ill-defined offenses punishable by death. Thus 
article 5 imposed the death penalty on "anyone who impairs the 
defensive power of the State", an article targeting democratic officers 
and soldiers primarily. Treason, punishable by death, was also left 
undefined. Actually, even the military tribunals proved a sham; the 
executions were decided and approved by the Derg members, no due 
process of law whatsoever. For example, a special military court 
sentenced Br. General Tadesse Biru, other officers and student leader 
Meles Tekle to life imprisonment for opposing the Derg rule. The 
Derg revoked the sentence and imposed the death sentenced on all 
and they were executed in March 1975. 

There is more to highlight: 

• in Yebu and Limma/Kaf f a region/ more than 30 peasants were 
killed in April 1975; 

• Dereje Legesse/an intellectual/ and eight other people were also 
executed in Limo around this same period; 

• In Bitchena, Gojam, Derg member Major Endale Tesema, led 
troons aeainst peasants and more than a thousand includine children 



and old were massacred; 

• In mid-February 1975, the Derg declared a state of emergency in 
Eritrea; 

• During the May Day demonstration in Addis Ababa more than 21 
workers and students were shot dead by soldiers; 

• From May to June 1975, student unrest spread and their 
demonstrations were violently put down in every instance; 

• On May 31,CELU opened a four-day congress but the Derg, which 
opposed the resolutions for the respect of democratic rights, closed 
down CELU. Scores of worker leaders were arrested and others killed 
in several places. 

• On Junel5-16, security forces killed many protesting against the 
violence of the Derg; 

• Between June 22 and July 8 alone, the State controlled media 
reported that the security forces have killed no less than 65 
"reactionaries' in various places; 

• In Bonga 150 peasants, in Felege Newaye area 80,etc were killed; 

And so on all over the country. On August 3/1975, the EPRP publicly 
declared its existence by clandestinely distributing its program (in 
three major Ethiopian languages and English) all over the country. 
Democracia was formally identified as the organ of the EPRP and the 
regime got even jittery. On September 11^1975, during the "revolution 
Day" celebrations, demonstrators openly carried placards calling for 
the respect of democratic rights and an end to the repression. Again in 
September 1975, the Ethiopian Teachers' Association (ETA) held its 
general congress in Jimma/Kaff a/ and passed resolutions reiterating 
their earlier June 1975: an end to the repression; the respect of 
democratic rights; the formation of provisional popular government, 
etc. The Derg labeled the teachers as "reactionaries" and unleashed its 
repression against the ETA. It announced on September 23: 

"A few teachers were caught red handed while trying to distribute cheap 
subversive propaganda. The teachers were trying to sabotage the 
ongoing revolution by trying to disrupt national unity and to divide the 
neonle on tribal and religious basis in nursuit of their own selfish 



interests"* 

(What was called cheap and subversive propaganda was actually the 
congress resolution. It is interesting to note that the Derg of that time 
and the Meles regime now accusing the Opposition sound almost the 
same!) 

On September 26, 1975 Ethiopian Air lines labor union members who 
were distributing union resolutions to workers were attacked by 
security forces and 8 workers were killed and many others wounded. 
Arrests and killing continued. Labor union leaders like Marcos Hags 
were tortured and beaten in prison. On September 30/1975, the Derg 
declared a state of emergency in and around Addis Ababa. Article 3 of 
the Emergency Declaration listed the following as "Prohibited and 
Unlawful Actions: 

• Persons who assemble and demonstrate without permission and 
people who are found assembling except on public and religious 
holidays; 

People who stop work or deliberately stage a go- slow action; 

People who resort to any kind of strike; 

People who utter unlawful words in public or any other places; 

People who prepare, write, keep and distribute or make other 
people know of unlawful pamphlets, placards or pictures; 

People who encourage, urge, threaten, issue orders, share their 
opinions or force other peoples to stop work; 

People who violate the curfew order; 

People who disturb or violate the orders o the security forces and 
who do not cooperate with them in their duties; 

People who are absent from work without a satisfactory reason; 

Generally any person who disturbs the public peace. 

In clearer terms anyone who opposed or thought of opposing the Derg 
was thus deemed a criminal. The Emereencv off iciallv continued till 



December 1995 but is stayed along with the Derg rule for 17 years. The 
Emergency law empowered security forces to "take appropriate and 
final measures" which meant nothing but murder, execution, shoot on 
sight. The death toll was very high. Actually, the draconian laws were 
made even more harsh months later by yet another Penal Code 
amendment (July 1976). The new articles increased the punishment for 
anyone who distributes "subversive literature" and the death penalty 
was imposed on anyone "who establishes contact, sympathizes with or 
assists anti people and anti revolution organizations within or outside 
the country". Anyone who tries to leave the country illegally was also 
punishable by life imprisonment. 

The declaration of the Emergency heightened the repression. CELU 
was dissolved and its leaders attacked — the chairman Marcos Hagos 
was later to be murdered by the Derg. All those who called for the 
formation of a provisional popular government were to be labeled 
counter revolutionaries and repressed. Torture was becoming routine. 
Arrested people began to "disappear". By labeling the EPRP, the trade 
unionists, teachers, students, etc, in short, all those who said NO to 
military rule as counter revolutionary and enemy, the Derg carried the 
conflicts further into the realm of violence. The repression was 
intensified. Thousands were arrested, hundreds killed. 

A new factor that emerged at the time was the strengthening of the 
Derg-Meisone alliance. Meisone was the All Ethiopian Socialist 
Movement which was formed by Ethiopian exiles in Europe mainly 
and which returned to Addis to give what it called "critical support" to 
the military regime. It was opposed to the EPRP position of calling for 
the formation of a provisional popular government and opted to work 
with military to effectuate "change" from the top. Derg and Meisone 
set up the POMOA— the Provisional Office for Mass Organization 
Affairs. Under this cover, Mesione emerged as the advisor and right 
hand group of the Derg and it was followed by other miniscule 
intellectual groups like Wez League led by the late Senaye Likke, 
Malered, Ichaat led by the late Baro Tumsa and Assefa Chabo. The 
POMOA served the Derg as a political-police body, deeply involved in 
the repression and terror until the Derg turned against the intellectual 
groups in turn and decimated them. EPRP and the people called this 
group "banda", the name given to traitors and Quislings who served 
Mussolini's invading army. Let it be said here that the EPRP has, 
given the present situation in the country, left the past alone and 
collaborated with Meisone and others like it to get rid of the Derg and 
the Melees regime. 



The EPRP was called "anarchist" and the intellectual allies of the Derg 
called for its decimation. On March 3, 1976, the EPRP issued a public 
communique exposing the Derg's plan to unleash terror and to 
massacre EPRP militants and sympathizers. The Derg heightened the 
repression by sending its most psychopathic and feared Majors, Ali 
Mussa and Getachew Shibeshi (both perished in 1991), on a killing 
spree to east, south and the west. From Asbe Tef eri to Jimma, the 
majors went on a rampage killing all and sundry arbitrarily so much 
so that many of their victims have become immortalized in 
revolutionary songs and poems. Dozens of EPRP members and 
sympathizers, innocent people, traders whose wealth was coveted by 
the Majors were killed brutally. The EPRP did not fire a single shot 
during all this time. 

On April 22/1976, workers, actors and singers of the National Theatre 
and municipal workers linked to the theatre and cinema staged a 
demonstration and practically tested the Derg-Meisone April 20**^ 
National Democratic Program which had promised democratic rights 
to the people. The workers were demanding the right to form unions 
and to have their working conditions improved. Armed troops and 
baton wielding police attacked the peaceful demonstrators killing six 
and arresting more than seventy. The Derg-Meisone promise of 
democratic rights and proven to be hollow, false, a fake, a deception. 

May Day 1976: one of the bloodiest and saddest days. Demonstrating 
workers, students carried placards calling for an end to the repression 
and for the respect of democratic rights. Very many were killed. Many 
were arrested and later executed. 

June, July, August— the number of executed was increasing. On June 
17, the Derg itself announced the execution of 17 people including 
Derg member Major Sisaye Habte. On July 5 a law was passed making 
hoarding a crime and weeks later some people were executed for 
"hoarding" a few kilos of 'berbere'/red pepper/. In most cases, the 
charges were false or made up. In July 1976, the EPRP again issued a 
communique denouncing the repression and revealing the fact that 
Derg has brought into Addis Ababa the Israeli- trained Nebelbal army 
unit to unleash violence against the EPRP and the people. On July 16 
alone, close to 1000 students were arrested. By August 1976, the mask 
was off and the war against the EPRP, the unions and all dissenters on. 
BY September 1976, the degree of the repression reached a new height. 
The Red Terror was preceded by violent repression, murder and 
mayhem of the Derg. Long before the EPRP resorted to self-defense or 
fired a single shot. This is the realitv. The EPRP did not provoke the 



Derg, did not resort to urban armed struggle, and did not choose the 
armed struggle path while the political situation in Ethiopia was 
peaceful. The EPRP undertook self defense action only after years of 
repression and after the Derg publicly declared war against it and the 
repression became unbearable. As we are seeing now with the Meles 
regime, the repression was the reply of a politically defeated Derg to a 
victorious people's struggle as bankrupt regimes can stay in power 
only by repressing the opposition and murdering the people at large. 
The people are duty bound to struggle for their rights. If provocation 
there were, it is primarily provocation by the ruling regime that denies 
the people their rights. Freedom never comes cheap and people have to 
pay the necessary sacrifice to regain their basic and inalienable rights. 
Tolerating a repressive regime is not wise and advisable— fighting 
against it is just and called for. Ethiopians the EPRP fought against a 
blood-thirsty military regime and paid heavy sacrifices. We do not ask 
why, the reason is clear for all to see. A really democratic regime does 
not turn violent because people stage protests and thus talk of 
provocation is misplaced. The Meles regime stole the voice of the 
people and resorted to repression to stamp out all opposition. The 
struggle waged by the people is just as in the past when the EPRP and 
the people said no to military dictatorship. Those who blame the 
people and the Opposition for resisting a repressive regime are 
mistaken in their assumptions, premises and conclusions. The EPRP 
has no regrets in that it organized and led the struggle against the 
Derg military regime. As we say in Ethiopia "ahyawn f erto 
dawlawn" — afraid of the donkey one beats the load. Te culprit is the 
Derg as is the Meles regime nowadays. Blame the criminal and not the 
victim. The repression and the Terror are the products of the Derg and 
not of the victims. 

FOUR 

AND WHAT ABOUT THE SACRIFICE? 

Replying to an accusation by Amnesty 

International the Derg said on November 12/1977: 

"if they say we don't have to kill people, aren't they saying that we 
have to quit the Revolution? The cry to stop the killing is a bourgeois 
cry". And Meisone had said more or less the same thing when it wrote 
in February 1977( Voice of the Masses) :"we are ready to unleash the red 
terror on the EPRP. Their blood shall serve as the water with which we 
will nut out the fire of the counter- revolution". And kill thev did with 



fury and never before seen savagery that continues to scar the whole 
country up to now. The Derg declared open war on the EPRP on 
September 11/1976. The secret execution of EPRP members and 
supporters was followed up by officially announced killings. On 
November 2,1976, twenty-three EPRP members, most of them 
intellectuals arrested in September 1976, were executed. All had been 
brutally tortured; many were previously active members of the student 
movement in Ethiopia and abroad. On November 18,1976, twenty 
seven others were officially executed and though accused of raising 
arms against the regime almost all were detained long before the EPRP 
launched any armed action in the city. None of the above fifty were 
tried in any court of law. Of the 27, most were below 21 years of age 
and one, Babile H.Sellasie, was only 14. The Red Terror as such was 
launched on February ^ 1977 but the period from September 1976 to 
that date was filled with the relentless killing of EPRP members and 
supporters by the Derg regime. 

The EPRP launched what it called self- defense action after so much 
blood had been shed by the military regime. On September 23, 1976 
the EPRP made an attempt on the life of Mengistu Haile Mariam (he 
was wounded) and on October 2, 1976, Fikre Merid, Meisone leader, 
was killed in Addis Ababa. Evidently, the EPRP did not first resort to 
violence to achieve its aims. The accusation that the EPRP lunched the 
"white terror" and thus "provoked the red terror" is a falsehood 
spread conveniently by the murderous Derg which had, from 
September 1974 till September 1976 had engaged in killing and terror 
all over Ethiopia and had declared open war against the EPRP on 
September 11/1976. This falsehood put aside, the next widely 
propagated and still echoed accusation refers to the allegation that 
"the EPRP sacrificed the youth". This accusation is based on the 
twisted premise that the victims are responsible for their own deaths 
and that the killer is not to blame. Is the opposition responsible for 
the June 8/2005 massacre in Addis Ababa? The same with the EPRP. A 
war was declared against it. Its members and supporters were being 
killed all over the country. It had of course the "choice" of accepting 
the repression and bowing to the regime. This capitulation and 
spinelessness was not in the nature of the EPRP and thus it was not a 
choice at all. By September 1976, it was clear for all to see that 
Menigstu's regime was politically defeated by the EPRP just as it 
became clear by June 2006 that the TPLF regime had lost the election to 
the opposition. The resort to savage violence was just a final attempt 
by the regimes to keep their power in place. The EPRP had no choice 
but to try to defend itself and the people. It was not a battle of equals 
but, as has been said often, there are wars that have to be foueht no 



matter the odds. And the EPRP heroically rose to the occasion and, 
despite the loss and suffering, wrote pages of courage into the history 
of our people. 

If the EPRP had, from the outset, taken up arms while the path of 
peaceful struggle was open it would have deserved admonition and 
the label of provocateur. But this was not the case. It followed the path 
of peaceful protests and got violent repression in reply. Just as in May 
2005. The Derg was unpopular and knew it too much like the Meles 
regime. If the contrary were the case, if the military regime was liked 
and backed by the people no amount of goading by the EPRP would 
have made the people rise against the regime. Actually, even slim 
prospects and hope of change make people wait. It is naivety to 
imagine that just a few demagogues will whip up the people into a 
rebellion against a regime they consider theirs or democratic. The 
people are never provocateurs — they are provoked by dictatorial 
regimes. Censorship was total— under ground papers like Democracia 
flourished. Parties were banned, parties went underground. Peaceful 
protests were forbidden, strikes spread. Arrests and executions became 
wide spread, resort to self defense became a necessity. Better death 
than slavery. 

The struggle against the repressive regime was not to be quaint or 
costless. As the Harambee song puts it: Freedom is not free, you have 
to sacrifice, pay a price for your liberty. The struggle against Italian 
occupation forces in 1935 cost one million Ethiopian lives. It was a 
worthy and patriotic struggle. The military regime killed more than 
200,000 people to stamp out the struggle against it. The cost was high 
but it was a cost that had to be paid. But, freedom never comes cheap. 
It is fair to say that the EPRP should have adopted tactics that exposed 
it less to the violent frenzy of the regime but it committed no error by 
opting to fight in self -defense. The Resistance against the Nazi regime 
in Europe cost very many lives. For every German officer killed the 
Nazis rounded up hundreds of hostages and shot them to death— we 
have not heard up to now any condemnation of the Resistance as 
provocateurs. The EPRP did not carelessly and callously throw its 
members into the jaws of repression. Many of its central committee 
and senior members (Tesf aye Debesaye, Kiflu Kebede, Yohannes 
Berhane, Melaku Markos, Mulugeta Sultan, Mulugeta Zena, Engineer 
Osman, etc) paid the ultimate sacrifice. Faced with a ruthless 
dictatorship there is no choice but to wage the bitter and costly 
struggle. Therefore, the EPRP heroically fought against the 
dictatorship and paid a huge sacrifice. It is not responsible for the 
killines and the Terror. It was the victim. Those who accuse it are 



mostly the Derg murderers and the TPLF satellites out to revise 
history. And these want to whitewash their crimes against the people. 
Other who looked from the sidelines while the life and death struggle 
was going on also look for justification and hide behind facile 
accusations against the EPRP. However, the EPRP pleads guilty for the 
"crime" of struggling against a brutal dictatorship. It is what it is 
doing at the present time too fighting against the anti-Ethiopian 
regime of Meles Zenawi that has killed countless EPRP members 
including central committee member Gaim sacrificed in Addis Ababa. 
EPRP members showed fantastic courage in the struggle against the 
brutal Derg. They manifested ingenuity and inventiveness never 
before recorded in the country. Young and old citizens turned into 
"mot ayf ere'ydeath daring/ fighters by their faith in the cause of the 
people blazed the path for a generation to come. The martyrs 
continued the history and heritage of Ethiopia— that of saying no to 
servitude by any local or foreign force, that of striving to live a worthy 
life negating horrible existence as a quiet, zombie like and subdued 
being. Those who accuse the EPRP for having struggled against the 
military regime are kin of those who laughed at Ethiopian patriots 
who brandished their spears at the tanks of the Mussolini Italian 
invaders. In the end, history gives victory to the people — the Derg was 
defeated. The same with the Meles regime — the martyrs will, with 
their blood, have dug its grave. 

FIVE 

THE EPRP AND ETHIOPIAN UNITY 

Yabyen Lemiye as we say in Ethiopia. The culprits often attribute 
blame on others. One of the issues on which those who have not even 
shed a tear let alone their own blood (for Ethiopia) accuse the EPRP of 
is the allegation that the party championed secession, damaged 
Ethiopia's unity, worked for the country's break up, served the 
Eritrean fronts and foreigners, etc. If a lie is sometimes a bit of truth 
that has gone wild this accusation has absolutely no shred of truth in it 
whatsoever. 

Let us begin by situating the problem in its proper political 
perspective. In Ethiopia, there are at least 70 to 80 ethnic groups, some 
in their millions, some in their thousands. The feudal regime of the 
late Emperor did not treat all ethnic groups or nationalities equally. 
There was oppression and discrimination; some were more equal, 
more "Ethiopian" than others. This is the undeniable fact that those 
who formed the EPRP had to confront. In the South, this oppression 



was also linked to the land question in that the local peasants were 
reduced to serfdom obliged by law to hand over two third of their 
produce to the landlords. Curtailment on the use of language, culture 
and discrimination on religious ground were rife. These were the ugly 
features of the feudal regime, ones that anyone wishing for change 
could ignore. That is why the progressive students and intellectuals 
started to address the issue and to seek a solution for the problem. 

The facts show that by 1960 the Eritrean Liberation Front had been 
formed and had started armed struggle in the lowlands following the 
dissolution of the federal arrangement (with Eritrea) by the imperial 
regime. There was unrest in the Ogaden, in Derassa, and in Bale the 
late Wako Gutu had launched an armed struggle that had ties with 
Somalia, and then there was the Metcha Tulema Movement calling for 
the respect of the rights of Oromos. As all this unfolded and went on, 
the students and progressives who were to form the EPRP were 
students. The EPRP, it should be said again, was fortned in 1972. 

Hence, to accuse the EPRP of inciting Eritreans or others unto 
secession is groundless. The Ethiopian Student Movement was multi 
ethnic and the revolution that these progressives envisaged had to 
involve all Ethiopian whatever their ethnic background. It thus meant 
that the problem of nationalities or ethnic grievances had to be 
addressed one way or another to lay the ground for a people's Ethiopia 
united on the basis of democracy. When the assertion was made that 
Ethiopia should not be a prison of peoples and nationalities, the 
underlying preoccupation was that Ethiopian can be united only on 
the basis of democracy and of equality and fraternity between its 
various ethnic groups. 

The solution given by the students and progressives was dictated by 
their ideological bent. Recognizing the oppression and condemning it 
as unjust was primary and it was done. The right of nationalities was 
also recognized and this, according to the ideology, also included the 
right even to secession but this was immediately qualified with the 
call and insistence on unity on the basis of democracy. The 
recognition of the right did not mean an automatic support to 
secession and this was made clear from the outset in the party program 
and literature. The EPRP along with all progressives could be 
criticized for not seeing in time the dangers of narrow nationalism but 
its position was castigated by the Eritrean fronts. The ELF and later the 
EPLF attacked the EPRP as an Ethiopian chauvinist organization 
because it refused to accept that Eritrea was "a colony of Ethiopia" and 
deserving of immediate and unconditional independence. In fact, the 



EPLF of Isayas Af ewerki allied itself with the TPLF because the latter 
recognized Eritrea as a colony and wrote pages of documents in 
support of the Eritrean position. In any case, the recognition of the 
rights of nationalities was expected to lay the ground for trust and 
confidence amongst all the people and, as events showed, it proved 
right in that Ethiopians of all ethnic groups were mobilized and 
organized within and around the EPRP to wage the struggle for 
democracy. Up to now, the EPRP is multi ethnic. 

The EPRP supported the democratic essence of the struggle of the 
Eritrean people without endorsing the program, agenda and political 
positions of the fronts and its call for a federal and peaceful solution 
for Eritrea was rejected both by the Eritrean fronts and the Derg. When 
the TPLF issued its manifesto in 1976 asserting that the contradiction 
between ethnic groups/nationalities in Ethiopia was primary and that 
the Ethiopian people cannot live together as a consequence and that 
Tigrai and others have to be independent, the EPRP did NOT applaud 
or support this ridiculous and dangerous position. On the contrary, 
the EPRP publicly attacked this narrow nationalist stand and called for 
the unity of the oppressed people of all ethnic groups as Ethiopians. 
This led to the continuing contradiction between the TPLF and the 
EPRP. The EPRP did NOT support the call by the TPLF for 
secession— it opposed it and, as a consequence, had to bear the war 
that the TPLF and its allies waged against it to drive its guerrilla army 
out of Tigrai. 

The EPRP is accused of supporting secession? Where and when? The 
accusers would not point out for sure other than recycling the Derg 
propaganda. The TPLF and EPLF accused the EPRP as an Ethiopian 
chauvinist force. The TPLF name for the EPRP is "abay Ethiopia" — 
Greater Ethiopia— and Meles Zenawi has written several brochures to 
explain why the TPLF considers the EPRP chauvinist, bourgeois and 
reactionary. In other words, the EPRP was NEVER an advocate of 
secession— it only argued for equality and democracy as a basis and 
guarantee for durable Ethiopian unity. 

The EPRP was attacked from both extremes. The chauvinists who 
refused to admit that there was ethnic oppression and discrimination 
in Ethiopia rushed to label it as a force against Ethiopian unity 
because it acknowledged the oppression and allied for change. The 
narrow nationalists like the TPLF and OLF, who were all out for 
secession at all costs, attacked it as a chauvinist party striving to 
maintain Ethiopian unity under all circumstances because it refused to 
blindlv support their demand for secession. Amhara for one, anti 



Amhara for others — the EPRP did not sit well with both extremists but 
its democratic and uncompromising Ethiopian position served it to 
rally all genuine democratic and progressive Ethiopians of all ethnic 
origin and religious background. This multi- ethnic composition was 
and is manifested by its leadership and membership and by the fact 
that its supporters come from almost all over Ethiopia, including 
Eritrea. 

We can say with confidence that there is no one, no force or group that 
has the moral authority to put in doubt the 
"Ethiopianity'TEthiopawine^ of the EPRP. Name per se is not 
important but the EPRP defined itself as Ethiopian and not as Amhara, 
Tigrean, Oromo, etc on an ethnic basis. 

Hence, it never compromised the interest of Ethiopia for sectarian 
gains as a party. It could have accepted the conditions and demands of 
all from near and afar and thereby compromised the interest and 
future of Ethiopia just to get to the top but this was not its choice or 
conviction. To illustrate this, let us take the case of Somalia. The EPRP 
did have relations with the Somali government but it refused to sign a 
communique with the so- called Western Somali Liberation Front as 
this front was claiming at least one third of Ethiopia— up to Nazreth or 
Adama- as Somali territory. The TPLF signed a communique vilifying 
"Abyssinian colonialists" and ceding Ethiopian territory to Somalia 
and thus got all military, political and diplomatic help (not to mention 
diplomatic passports) from Mogadishu. Actually, the Derg, and Derg 
remnants as well as the shameless TPLF accuse the EPRP of backing 
the Somali invasion of the Ogaden inl977. Mengistu used this war to 
rally nationalist fervor around his regime (as Meles did during the war 
against Eritrea in 1998) and in the process moved to liquidate the 
opposition whom it conveniently and falsely accused as "pro Somali" 
(as Meles accuses its opponents of being in the pay of Eritrea). 

The EPRP, true to its clearly expressed principles, did not ever back 
the reactionary military regime of Somalia. When the Somali incursion 
into the Ogaden started in 1977 it condemned this and clearly stated 
that the interest of the Somalis in the Ogaden cannot be assured by an 
invasion. Some quarters were/are still unable to understand its 
condemnation of both regimes (that of Mengistu and Siyad Barre) that 
were both trying to solve their internal problems by resorting to 
nationalism and war. True enough, the Mengistu regime used the war 
to consolidate its power and attack the EPRP with fervor. If truth be 
told, the Siyad Barre regime of Somalia killed many EPRP members 
and refugees linked to the EPRP were subiected to torture and ill 



treatment in Somali refugee camps. Yet, there are still diehards who 
still accuse the EPRP of supporting the Somali invasion but they do so 
without any concrete proof to back them up. Just rumors and lies. Had 
the EPRP put first its own organizational interest and not that of 
Ethiopia, it would have acted like the TPLF: accepting the diktat of the 
Sudan and blowing up bridges and handing over Southern Sudanese 
refugees, telling Libya's Kadaf i that Ethiopia is Arab, accepting 
whatever America ordered, etc. Intransigent the EPRP may have been 
called, but this is due to its refusal to compromise the interest of 
Ethiopia. Let us recapitulate: 

• The Eritrean fronts demanded that it accept their claim hat Eritrea 
is a colony of Ethiopia. IT REFUSED and suffered the consequences as 
the fronts backed the TPLF that accepted their theses with enthusiasm. 

• The TPLF declared that ethnic contradiction was primary and that 
all nationalities should, secede but the EPRP opposed this divisive, 
anti Ethiopian and narrow nationalist stand. The TPLF and its allies 
waged successive wars against it. 

• The Sudan and its allies wanted the EPRP to undertake anti 
Ethiopian actions in exchange for military and political assistance. The 
EPRP refused and paid the price for its refusal. 

Some say the EPRP was not tactical tough the EPRP was well aware of 
what tactics meant but had just refused to forego Ethiopia's interest 
under the cover of tactical considerations. The aim of the EPRP was 
not to assure power for itself whatever the cost. Its mission was to 
assure the sovereignty and rights of the people. It had no intention of 
coming to power by becoming the TPLF minus the name. Hence it 
refused to be "tactical" if this meant selling out Ethiopia. Patriotism 
can sometimes be the hiding place of scoundrels. The EPRP was a 
patriot in the most genuine sense of the term. Its members could have 
all successfully led their private life but they refused to succumb to 
this choice by putting their country and people first. The regional and 
international situation favored forces that acted against the interest of 
Ethiopia— the EPRP refused to betray Ethiopia, come what may. The 
Mengistu regime sold the country's sovereignty to the Soviet super 
power just as the previous regime had done so to America. They were 
not nationalist, not really Ethiopian. The Meles regime is worse — it 
does not even consider itself Ethiopian. The EPRP differed and differs. 
It is committed to Ethiopia and her people. No compromise on this. If 
it recognized the right of nationalities it did so NOT to encourage 
separation but to advocate for unitv on a new democratic basis. 



Ethiopia's problems of nationalities were there long before the EPRP 
appeared on the scene. It should be credited for acknowledging and 
confronting the problem and of trying to give it a democratic solution 
while affirming and fighting for the unity of Ethiopia on a democratic 
basis. 

Can others make such claims in all honesty? Should those who 
supported the chauvinist regime and politics of the feudal regime even 
utter a word against the EPRP? Should the partisans of the repressive 
and savage Derg who sold the country to Soviet imperialism be 
allowed to comment on the consistent and genuine Ethiopia and her 
people First stand of the EPRP? Who is the one to give the time of day 
to the proclaimed anti Ethiopian TPLF to question the Ethiopian 
credentials of the EPRP? The answer is clear: thousands of EPRP 
members died for Ethiopia defining nationalism in a democratic 
content. Can others say the same? At present the EPRP is firmly 
against the traitorous regime and its foreign backers. It has not bowed 
down to foreign or f erenji pressures, has not sacrificed Ethiopia's 
interest for organizational benefits. True enough some call it 
intransigent but it pleads guilty to the charge as its "fault" is refusing 
to deal on Ethiopia's future with her enemies. The EPRP has not 
compromised to the anti Ethiopia TPLF regime. It has not accepted 
promises of bureaucratic positions in exchange for betraying the 
people. It has not acquiesced with secessionists at any time. In other 
words, the EPRP has defined and given more content to Ethiopian 
nationalism — not jingoism or chauvinism but democratic and based 
on the rights of all her people. No chauvinism, no narrow 
nationalism — Ethiopia is our country, and our "difference" is our 
strength and bond. Such was and is the stand of the EPRP, the 
foremost Ethiopian modern political party. When it comes to wars 
fomented by reactionary regimes the EPRP has condemned and 
exposed the regimes' inner motives while calling on the peoples 
involved to uphold fraternity and to resist bloodshed. The war 
between the Siad Barre regime and Mengistu was primary a war 
between the two dictators with their own political agendas. Siyad 
Barre invoked the plight of the people in the Ogaden to justify his 
invasion and to rally the Somali people around him. Mengistu 
invoked defense of Ethiopia to use the national feeling of Ethiopians 
for his own purpose of consolidating his failing grip on power. In 
1998, the TPLF regime, the very force that threw Ethiopia unity to the 
wolves, dressed itself in national-Ethiopian garbs and called on the 
people to march against Eritrea. Some were duped into imagining the 
Meles regime as the defender of Ethiopian sovereignty. The EPRP had, 
as in the nast, exposed the costlv same beine nlaved bv the TPLF and 



events that followed which brought human and territorial loss to 
Ethiopia have proven it to be correct. And those who supported Meles 
have been shamed by the result. With good intentions and hoping to 
enhance the voluntary unity of the people the EPRP did recognize the 
full right of self determination. It was bale to mobilize the living and 
vibrant section of the Ethiopian society and to wage a committed 
struggle against the dictatorship. The EPRP never went the ethnic way. 
Others called this and that but it was and remains ETHIOPIAN by 
conviction and composition. Those who followed Meles Zenawi into 
the pit of ethnic organization cannot say the same and can have no 
moral ground to criticize the EPRP on this basis. 

After a few years of struggle and learning from its own experience the 
EPRP redefined what self determination meant to it and openly 
declared its opposition to any secession. For the Eritrean problem, it 
forwarded the federal solution as the best alternative. Years and years of 
violent attack by narrow nationalist and secessionist forces is enough proof 
that the EPRP stands for Ethiopian unity. The TPLF and its allies waged 
war against the EPRP both in Tigrai and in Gondar and enemies of 
Ethiopia who wanted the liquidation of the multi ethnic EPRP helped them 
in this destructive campaign. The TPLF took power after waging a bloody 
war against the EPRP in Gondar and Gojjam and at the time when EPRP 
leaders and members captured by the TPLF were suffering it is necessary 
to remember that quite a few of present day critics of the EPRP were 
hailing the TPLF as democratic or trying to share power with it. EPRP 
leaders have been disappeared by the TPLF and others like Gaim had to be 
martyred in Addis Ababa struggling against the divisive TPLF. 

The EPRP did not subject Ethiopian unity and the interest of the 
people to tactical considerations. In this it never bowed to foreigners 
who promised it the sky if only... if it only took certain actions and 
positions, which were not in Ethiopia's interests. The reply by the 
EPRP was in the negative — it still is. That is why it declares that who 
blindly follow the diktat of foreign powers or countries to the 
detriment of the interests of our people cannot preach "nationalism" to 
the EPRP. The EPRP believes that the future of a united Ethiopia is 
based on the establishment of a democratic system. A system that 
upholds the rule of law, equality amongst the people, assures self 
administration and the people's direct participation in politics. The 
EPRP is opposed to those who reject this path and doggedly opt for 
separation or secession as such a choice will not benefit the people 
though it may be appear fruitful to the elite seeking exclusive power 
and fief dom. The record is very clear and a barrage of rumors and false 
accusations cannot change it. Who struffffled aeainst the chauvinists 



and the narrow nationalists from the outset? Who collaborated with 
them? Every Ethiopian knows the answer and can presently see who 
stands for Ethiopia and who has succumbed to the Weyane virus of 
ethnic division. The EPRP was and is and will continue to be 
unaffected and free from the virus that is threatening the very 
existence of Ethiopia as a united country. 

SIX 

EPRP AND THE UNITED STRUGGLE OF THE PEOPLE 

Some people have failed to realize that the difference between the 
Derg and the EPRP were fundamental just as the differences that the 
EPRP has with the TPLF are for the most part irreconcilable. The 
tendency to label the Derg Left "just as the EPRP" and to declare "they 
were all the same and fought only for power" is basically wrong. 
Evidently, political struggles revolve around the question of State 
power but the struggle waged was not primarily for the interest of an 
organization but for the rights of the people. If the EPRP had been 
after its own power, that is to say to have its members named to 
executive positions the offer was there during the Derg period and 
was on the table also in the early 1990s so long as the "EPRP accepted 
to be a teletafi or satellite" of the TPLF. There is Left and Left just as 
all rightists are not basically the same. The EPRP wanted the military 
Derg to relinquish power and leave its place to a provisional popular 
government. The EPRP slogan of the time was "democraciawi mebt 
lechikunotch algedeb"— full and unrestricted democratic rights for the 
people. The Derg refused to heed this call and resorted to violence to 
eliminate the EPRP thereby provoking a bloodshed that almost wiped 
out a generation. 

The chasm between the TPLF and the EPRP was dug by the TPLF 
itself when it got formed on a narrow nationalist basis and issued a 
Manifesto which proclaimed that the main contradiction in Ethiopia is 
that that exists between nationalities/ethnic groups and thus the only 
solution is for each to separate and form its own independent State. 
The EPRP was fiercely opposed to this destructive position and held 
talks (nine times) with the TPLF leadership to no avail. The TPLF 
leaders attacked the EPRP as chauvinist, Amhara, Greater Ethiopia 
advocate, and called upon it to leave Tigrai altogether which they tried 
to assure by violent means. Thus, the divide was wider than the 
alleged adherence to leftist political positions. 

All this is to illustrate that the Question of the united front or 



struggling in unison against the common enemy is not an easy issue. 
The usual 

critics of the EPRP allege that 

• The EPRP is opposed to a united struggle unless it dominates it; 

• The EPRP dissolves or breaks up united fronts; 

• The EPRP is vengeful and excludes those it hates from united 
fronts. 

• Etc. 

We shall show that once again that this false but has been repeated so 
many times like the other lies that some people assume it must be 
true. Since its formation the EPRP has tried to struggle in unison with 
other democratic organizations. The merger of the founders achieved 
the process of the formation of the EPRP with other groups of which 
the Abyot group was one. When the Derg made a call to "all 
progressives" the EPRP did not reject the call outright but laid down 
fundamental conditions for the success of such an undertaking: that it 
includes all political groups including the groups like the TPLF. The 
Derg rejected the demand as it had no intention of sharing power with 
anyone. In the nine talks with the TPLF the EPRP proposed to them to 
"merge if we have the identical programs and objectives; to form a 
united front against the Derg on the basis of a minimum political 
program if possible; and if all this is not conceivable to cooperate on 
the ground against the common enemy and to avoid any clashes. 
Again, it was the TPLF that rejected this offer and demanded that the 
EPRP leave Tigrai altogether. Almost all organizations pass through 
an adolescent period during which they bask in the support of the 
people and imagine that they and only they can bring about the 
salvation of millions. The EPRP had such a brief moment but soon 
overcame it and realizing that the struggle needed to involve all the 
people approached the question of the united front on two levels. 

1. To unite the vast majority of the people along a common political 
program and objective, that is to say the struggle for democracy and 
equality, land to the tiller, etc... 

2. To form a united front with democratic organizations whenever 
possible. Both approaches were undertaken in earnest and the EPRP 
w^as able to mobilize millions. Tt also annroached the then existing 



Ethiopian National Liberation Front/IB NEAG in its Amharic acronym/ 
in order to form a front. Internal problems of this front made any 
agreement difficult. The EPRP had also working relations with an 
Afar democratic movement, which later opted to join the Derg. The 
EPRP formed a front with the EDU/ideologically its opposite/ and 
struggled for a time effectively. Putting aside all previous enmities 
and grievances, the EPRP joined Meisone and others to form the 
Coalition of Ethiopian Democratic Forces (COEDF). The TPLF and 
OLE were invited but refused to attend the meeting that formed the 
COEDE. This front worked effectively till it outlived itself and left its 
place to the UEDE. 

In all front arrangements the EPRP did not insist on having a voting 
power in proportion to its size but had/has only one voting voice equal 
to all other groups however tiny. Such is also the way it works and 
worked within the UEDE. It was just one amongst 15 and the fact that 
the AEUP and EDP left the UEDE after its formation is more linked to 
their own ambition and agenda rather to any misdoings within the 
UEDE. The EPRP, along with the UEDE, refused to join the Alliance 
for Freedom and Democracy because it believed that the AED will not 
advance the struggle of the Ethiopian people and is more tuned to 
being an instrument of those forces that preach secession as their 
primary political objective. 

The united front is formed by organizations that come around a 
minimum political program (in the present context to save Ethiopia 
from the TPLF onslaught and to assure democracy) and accept the fact 
that one single organization cannot tackle and solve the myriad and 
complicated problems of Ethiopia. As almost all organizations pass 
through a sort of adolescent period during which they imagine 
everyone in the country backs them and awaits from them salvation 
for eternity, it is understandable that some organizations assume that 
they are the one and only medicine for Ethiopia's ills. However, such 
delusion should end without much delay. The EPRP understood that 
unity of democratic forces is and will be necessary for victory and has 
always been in the forefront of the search for a viable united front. It 
had left aside it justified grievances and rancor, ignored its wounds 
and tried to work with its previous enemies. Sadly enough, some of 
these, some who worked with the Derg and took part in the 
repression, had turned against it and attacked it. The United Front is a 
voluntary undertaking by groups and organizations that decide to 
come together. It is not a forced marriage or "telef a" of one group by 
another. When a united front loses its usefulness and its mission ends 
it will disband or dissolve. The EPRP cannot be blamed for that. As an 



organization with only one vote in a front— for example the UEDF— 
the travails and problems of the front cannot be laid at the door of the 
EPRP alone. Such is the reality. 

In short, the EPRP was and is one of the strong bulwarks of all united 
front efforts so long as such efforts serve the Ethiopian people's 
struggle. If not, the EPRP will not be part of such an undertaking. In 
any front that the EPRP decides to be part of it has and is 
worked/working on the basis of equality/one vote/ and so the question 
of domination or "only mine must pass" type pf stand have no place. It 
is just baseless. An illusion. False. 

SEVEN 

WHY THE FEAR? WHY THE PREJUDICE? 

It is evident that a whole lot of prejudices and false accusations 
concerning the EPRP have been spread by its enemies— recalcitrant 
Derg members and cadres, criminals of the Red Terror, the TPLF and 
its hirelings, those who had betrayed the organization and foreign 
enemies of Ethiopia. They are not few these detractors of the EPRP, 
no. Yet, we can safely say that there is a lot of fear involved in the 
whole process. Fear by the criminals that the EPRP means vengeance 
for the savagery they brought down upon the people. Fear by the 
betrayers who have changes camp to serve the enemy of the people. 
Fear by those who have heard only the revised and false history of the 
EPRP. Those who were children during the seventies and have been 
exposed only to "history" as written by the Derg and the TPLF are to 
be excused if they have negative attitudes towards the EPRP. The lies 
are many and they are being prepared by many with their own axe to 
grind. The EPRP was and still is a clandestine organization. As it was 
denied legality and the enemy was ferocious it had to be secretive, to 
go deep underground. Its militants had to carry cyanide pills and were 
forced often to commit suicide because they were sure to be brutally 
tortured and did not want to pass secrets that would cause more death. 
The EPRP never had the chance to function legally inside Ethiopia, to 
work openly amidst the people. Fear of the "mysterious and the 
unknown" affected some people and led them to unrealistic 
imaginings and conclusions vis a vis the party. The EPRP has yet to 
write its own authentic history though some attempted to register their 
version of this history. This absence has also helped pseudo historians 
to write falsehood about the EPRP, to attack it as anti democratic and 
anti Ethiopia even. But the truth, as we tried to comment unon. is 



elsewhere. 

A valiant and heroic generation is what the EPRP is all about. 
Youngsters and relatively older Ethiopians, educated and erudite, 
many assured bureaucratic posts and comfortable lives threw all this 
away to serve the people who had paid for their education. This was a 
generation that believed it can assault the sky, grasp and tame the 
clouds, defeat a well armed enemy supported by a superpower, a 
generation that welcomed sacrifice with revolutionary songs 
convinced that victory will in the end smile at the people and all pests 
and monsters will be defeated. Their commitment and courage 
shocked and surprised many — the Derg alleged they must have been 
drugged! Why should they die for the masses, scoffed those who opted 
to pursue their own individual comfort inside the country or abroad, 
quietly awaiting the passing away of the storm, to say "alena" to the 
new power holders, here we are new master, use us. For those shamed 
by their own past, the EPRP is a nagging bad conscience, a reminder of 
the courage and dedication that they lacked. For those who had served 
the Derg in one way or another, as advisors. Red Terror activists, etc 
and are now hiding within so called opposition groups the EPRP is 
better off non existent, so that the past can be buried, their role 
ignored. And all this while the EPRP had publicly stated that the past 
must handle itself and reconciliation is the best option to learn and 
move ahead. In other words there is nothing to fear from the EPRP 
unless one has become the enemy of Ethiopia. 

For its members, the EPRP has meant the means of continuing the 
Ethiopian combat against oppression in all its forms. The new 
generation has not shamed the past that gave it an independent 
country despite the upper hand held by vermin that have made it to 
the palace. The important point is that the struggle continues and the 
EPRP symbolizes that, a determined and arduous struggle for more 
than 34 years. Those who fail to grasp the stride of history conclude 
that the EPRP has not wrested power and therefore it is defeated. They 
lose sight of the fact that the EPRP has achieved significant victories 
that have imposed their indelible stamp on the country. The very idea 
and concept of organization, the lessons of the mass struggle against 
the Derg, the urban and rural armed struggle, the mobilization and 
politicization of millions, the organization of women and the 
popularization of their cause, the experience of clandestine struggle, 
the lessons of collective leadership and much more are the fruits of the 
EPRP. A rich experience, a history of courage. The EPRP is an 
inextricable part of the people and their history. That is why the 
oneoine strueele aeainst the enemies of Ethiopia benefits immenselv 



from the presence of the EPRP on the side of the people. And that is 
why, in reverse, the enemies of Ethiopia like the TPLF consider the 
EPRP as enemy number one and have launched against it a relentless 
campaign of denigration, false accusation and liquidation. 



to be continued.